Wednesday, October 14, 2009
From the web page of the Disciplinary Board of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court:
In early August of this year, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County a civil complaint, therein asking the Honorable Pamela Pryor Dembe, President Judge of that court, to enjoin a disbarred Philadelphia attorney from continuing to practice law. The last time ODC had to take such a drastic step to prevent a disbarred attorney from practicing law was 20 years ago.
The Office of Disciplinary Counsel is the investigative and prosecutorial arm of the Disciplinary Board, which is an agency of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The primary mission of ODC and the Disciplinary Board is to protect the public.
The complaint, which was filed against former attorney Allen L. Feingold, alleged that after his disbarment, Feingold pursued civil claims on behalf of himself and former clients as “co-plaintiffs”; failed to advise clients of his inability to practice law, as required by Supreme Court rules; and, used letterhead in the name of a licensed attorney, Jeffry Pearson, to mail and fax correspondence to lawyers, judges and clients, without Pearson’s knowledge or consent. In addition to requesting injunctive relief, ODC’s complaint requested that Judge Dembe appoint retired Supreme Court Justice Russell Nigro to serve as conservator and to take control of the files of Feingold’s former clients.
In March 2006, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court suspended Feingold for three years for failing to correct false testimony given by a client during a deposition, instructing an employee in a medical office to falsely say that she could not locate the client-patient’s medical records that had been subpoenaed by opposing counsel, and filing two frivolous lawsuits. In August 2006, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court suspended Feingold for two years, to run consecutively to the first suspension, for choking a judge pro tem who had entered a ruling that Feingold did not agree with. Both orders of suspension directed Feingold to comply with rules requiring that he notify clients of his suspension and disengage from the practice of law.
Under disciplinary enforcement rules promulgated by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania attorneys who are on inactive status, administratively suspended, suspended or disbarred are allowed to work in a law office that is staffed on a full-time basis by a supervising attorney who is licensed and in good standing. The rules, however, place significant restrictions on the former attorney. Direct communication with clients and third parties is limited to ministerial matters, such as scheduling and billing, and the former attorney is not allowed to render legal consultation or advice, appear on behalf of a client in court or at a deposition, negotiate a settlement, or handle client funds. A former attorney who is suspended or disbarred is not allowed to work for any law firm or lawyer with whom the former attorney was associated on or after the date on which the acts that resulted in the loss of license occurred, through and including the effective date of the disbarment or suspension.
In June 2007, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court entered an order holding Feingold in contempt for willful violation of the suspension orders and referred the matter to the Disciplinary Board for a hearing to determine the sanction. After finding that Feingold failed to notify clients of his suspensions; failed to withdraw his appearances from cases; continued to engage in “law-related activities;” and, failed to pay costs associated with the proceedings that led to his suspensions, the Disciplinary Board unanimously recommended that Feingold be disbarred. In August 2008, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court disbarred Feingold. The Disciplinary Board’s reports and recommendations to the Supreme Court in the suspension and disbarment matters are available at the Disciplinary Board’s Web site at www.padb.us.
According to the complaint for injunctive relief filed by ODC in the Court of Common Pleas, “there exists no adequate remedy at law to prohibit defendant’s [Feingold’s] conduct and therefore an injunction is necessary and warranted in this matter.”
William Pietragallo, II, Chairman of the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of PA, said, “The disciplinary system exists to regulate attorney conduct, and ensure proper action is taken for individuals who don’t follow the rules. While an injunction is very rare, there are times when this drastic measure must be taken in order to protect the public.”
After hearings on several dates, Judge Dembe entered an order on September 2, 2009 enjoining Feingold from engaging in the unlawful practice of law, and an order on September 10, 2009 appointing Justice Nigro to act as conservator “to protect the interests of [Feingold’s] present and former clients.”